City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More
The White Cottage at Spanish Point.

Featured Article

Local Trips, Local Treasures

Our Region Abounds With Natural Splendor And Interesting History. Here Are Three Local Destinations For Intrepid Travelers.

Article by Tony D'Souza

Photography by Stephanie Snow Photography

Originally published in Venice City Lifestyle

At 37,000 acres, Myakka State Park is not only one of Florida’s largest state parks, it is also one of the oldest. After a Great Depression era Civilian Conservation Corps work project there establishing buildings and trails in conjunction with the National Parks Service and the Florida Parks Service from 1934-941, Myakka State Park opened to the public in 1942. 

Today, a visit to the park costs just $6 per vehicle, and the park is open to the public 365 days per year, closing everyday at sunset. Inland Florida is so different from the beaches and theme parks that Florida is known for. At Myakka State Park, the visitor sees first hand the sort of topography that confronted Native Americans and early explorers and settlers once they left the friendly beaches on the coasts.

With a six-and-a half mile road through the eastern side of the park (shown here in the main photo),  visitors to the park will not have to contend with the acres of impenetrable sawgrass and palmetto that make up the majority of the preserved land. All along the roadway, animal sightings are frequent, from dark and grunting wild hogs, to dainty deer, to flocks of wild turkeys, Myakka State Park is home to most of the wildlife native to Florida. 

Every visit to the park is different, dependent on Florida’s ever changing temperature and weather. A rainy, humid summer visit might lead to sightings of flocks of whistling ducks or roseate spoonbills, while a cooler autumn visit can reveal beautiful blooming orchids and snail kites coasting over fields of swamp.

Myakka offers canoe and bicycle rentals, and multiple daily trips on its airboats to visit the preserve’s many extremely large alligators. The park also features an excellent bird watching boardwalk, as well as a canopy walk that takes visitors high above the park’s tallest trees.

Last year, birders were enthralled by the sudden appearance in the park of a snow goose far out of its normal range. The most intrepid outdoors people can camp in the true wilds at one of the park’s primitive backcountry campsites, while those lucky enough to make reservations far in advance can spend the night in of Myakka’s six rustic sabal palm cabins, built by the CCC.

A true gem of our region, Myakka State Park offers quiet and solitude like few other places left in our ever growing paradise.

13208 State Road 72, Sarasota. 941.361.6511.

Out on the far end of Venice’s Border Road are a number of preserves, including Sleeping Turtles Preserves North and South, hundreds of acres of pristine land protected in the early 2000s by the county under the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program. These undeveloped preserves on the Myakka River feature miles of walking trails and little else in the way of development. Great places to fish from the banks for bass while sharing the river with huge alligators, the Sleeping Turtles Preserves are also the home to many birds and butterflies.

Florida, after all, is a butterfly aficionado’s paradise. There are dozens of species to spot, and many of them are large, colorful and dramatic. Typical butterflies to see at the Sleeping Turtles Preserves include the monarch, of course, but also the equally gorgeous Gulf fritillary—which feeds on the native passion vine—and the Great Southern White butterfly—which feeds on wild mustards and cabbage. Also abundant at the preserves are the beautiful cloudless sulphur butterflies—big, fluttery and yellow.

At the Sleeping Turtles Preserves, there are no amenities, as well as no admission fee. The preserves are open from 6 a.m. to sunset, and while the trails can become confusing to follow, the preserves are bordered by fences and private land and it is impossible to become lost. Cell phones do not always maintain reception at the preserves and bug repellant will go a long way in  helping the little ones enjoy the hike. Make sure to bring plenty of water and enjoy spotting our gorgeous butterflies!

3462 Border Road, Venice. 

Now part of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Historic Spanish Point on Little Sarasota Bay in Osprey is a museum to literally centuries of Florida history. The Spanish Point campus—visited almost daily during season by groups of school children—offers a Native American midden as its signature exhibit, as well as buildings that date to the pioneer days of the late 1800s. The gardens are dedicated to native flora and butterflies, and the beauty of the site makes it a top wedding destination. Open everyday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Spanish Point is a quite, relaxing stop on any southwest Florida itinerary. Not to be missed is the gorgeously reconstructed Mary’s Chapel, now a coveted wedding venue. Pay close attention to the workmanship than went into these finely crafted old buildings. Made of wood, they were built to stand the demanding climate of Florida and offer many insights into the people who lived in them.

 337 North Tamiami Trail, Osprey. 941.966.5214.   

  • The interior of Mary's Chapel.
  • Mary's Chapel at Historic Spanish Point
  • The White Cottage at Spanish Point.
  • Children riding bicycles at Myakka State Park
  • A Gulf fritillary butterfly
  • A Great Southern White butterfly
  • Nesting great blue herons
  • A great egret